Does God speak through randomness?
Or, What’s up with seeking guidance by opening the Bible to a random page?
One of the things I’ve never gotten clarity on is whether or not it’s recommended that Christians seek answers from God through chance, e.g. opening the Bible to a random page and reading whatever you first lay your eyes on, or rolling dice and choosing a certain path depending on which number comes up.
At first I assumed that this must be a categorically bad idea because:
- It seems like it’s an attempt to boss God around somehow, like you’re demanding that he answer you at a specific time and in a specific way.
- God gave us the ability to reason, so why set it aside in favor of random chance?
- If this were an acceptable thing to do, presumably it would be acceptable all the time, in which case we could make every decision this way: what to eat for dinner, whom to marry, what types of medical treatments to use could all be decided by opening the Bible to random pages…which doesn’t sound right.
On the other hand, the 11 Apostles did cast lots to determine who would replace Judas. St. Augustine famously recounted having a transforming experience after he opened the Bible to a random page and happened across a line in Romans 13. I can see that at least such an act is done is the spirit of the renunciation of self-centered willfulness and a desire to be obedient — so maybe God would bless that?
I admit it, I’ve done it. I’ve felt stuck on some discernment issue and just opened the Bible to a random page. Sometimes there’s nothing remotely relevant there, though there have been quite a few times when I got some uncanny answer that seemed to be beyond coincidence.
But is this something I’m supposed to be doing? Is it a bad idea? A good idea? I have no clue. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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